Playground mulch provides a protective surface for outdoor play areas, where there is a high risk of falling or injuries. However, choosing the best mulch for playgrounds for your kids is difficult since there are many types of mulch on the market.
This article will provide an in-depth review of the 5 best-rated mulch that is widely used for playgrounds. I hope that the following information will help parents pick up a mulch model that is safe and comfortable for kids.
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Top 5 Best Mulch For Playground 2022
|Product Image||Product Name||Features||Price|
|Playsafer Rubber Mulch Nuggets for Playgrounds||Wide color choices||See latest Price|
|NuScape Red Playground Rubber Mulch||Remarkable fall height rating||See latest Price|
|NuPlay Playground Rubber Nugget||Small size to reduce choke hazards||See latest Price|
|KIDWISE Playground Rubber Mulch||Greater impact absorption||See latest Price|
|American Floor Mats Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds||IPEMA and ASTM certified||See latest Price|
In-depth 5 Top Rated Mulch For Playground Reviews
1. Playsafer Rubber Mulch Nuggets for Playgrounds – Wide color choices
Quickly dry and never freezing in winter, Playsafer rubber mulch is the best mulch to use for playgrounds for all weather conditions.
Depending on your playground’s acreage and purpose, you can pick up a mulch size from 1.55 to 77 cubic feet. For example, for a residential play area of 60 square feet, you need to cover it with 400 pounds of mulch at a depth of 3 feet.
This playground mulch is available in 6 colors (red, blue, black, brown, etc.). You can choose a single color or add more fun to the kid’s play area by mixing several colors altogether.
Safety is a vital criterion when thinking about playground mulch. These Playsafer mulch nuggets are made from old car tires and are 99,99% metal-free, so it’s more eco-friendly and safer for your kids and the environment than wood mulch.
By using rubber mulch, you and your family have contributed to the tire recycling solution. Moreover, it meets the IPEMA certification to reduce injury risks in kid’s playground environments.
Last but not least, these colorful mulch nuggets are durable and affordable. As stated by the manufacturer, these nuggets are produced using the highest quality materials to last bright for 12 years with no fading or rubbing off on kid’s skin, toys, or clothes.
They also will not decompose or compress, so you will not need to reapply them again and again.
2. NuScape Red Playground Rubber Mulch – Remarkable fall height rating
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 200,000 children in the U.S are treated in hospitals for playground-related issues annually. NuScape Red Mulch is a reliable choice to let kids’ creativity blossom while ensuring they are always well-protected.
As of CPSC, you should cover your home playmat with a depth of 12 inches of mulch. A mulch bag can cover 0.8 cubic feet. You can pick up one or several bags of mulch, depending on how large your area is.
This IPEMA-certified rubber mulch is considered safe for playgrounds with a fall height rating of up to 16 feet, double the wood mulch’s fall height rating.
Therefore, this groundcover offers a superior shock-absorbing capacity, thus reducing injury risks and putting less force on the joints and bones of destructive kids.
These rubber pieces are denser and heavier than wood, making it hard to be blown away on a windy day or washed away after a hard rainfall. Although they cost more per square foot than wood fiber, they can maintain their bright color for 12 years with low maintenance effort.
3. NuPlay Playground Rubber Nugget – Small size to reduce choke hazards
These NuPlay Rubber Nuggets are versatile for various purposes around your house. You can use them to enhance the natural look of your property or treat them as bedding to retain moisture and soil for your plants and flowers. You can even use them to set up a soft and safe play area under your 5-year-old’s swing set.
Why do I choose synthetic mulch over cedar mulch, cypress mulch, or wood chips?
Because rubber nuggets like NuPlay provide a 200%-700% better fall height, head impact, and injury protection than those natural wood mulch types. Rubber playground mulch doesn’t need to be replaced every year, reducing my maintenance cost and effort.
Another reason that persuaded me to choose this NuPlay mulch is its appropriate sizing. Since this mulch is available in small pieces, it helps potentially reduce choke hazards in kids.
Another valuable piece of information for parents – this mulch also meets the ASTM F3012 standard of ASTM International for loose-fill rubber to use as a safe playground covering.
4. KIDWISE Playground Rubber Mulch – Greater impact absorption
This KIDWISE Rubber Mulch is a fantastic alternative to some other playground materials on the market. It’s a loose type of rubber playground cover that absorbs more impact than conventional rubber mulch. Each pallet can cover up to 300 square feet 3 inches deep.
Complying with the ASTM 1292.99 guidelines on surfacing safety, this playground mulch can protect your kids when falling from a height of 5 feet (with a covering area of 3 inches deep) or 12 feet (with a covering area of 6 inches deep).
This play surface functions similar to wood chips but not cutting or breaking your kids’ hands and legs when they fall.
There are two drawbacks of this cedar red mulch. First, this mulch is harder to keep clean than rubber tiles since it can easily hold bacteria and dirt. Second, it tends to be too hot on sunny days due to the recycled rubber tires it is made of.
5. American Floor Mats Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds – IPEMA and ASTM certified
Proudly made in the USA, American Floor Rubber Mulch is a wise choice to protect your destructive on hyper-active outdoor activities on swings or slides. Since this synthetic mulch is 5 times heavier than wood mulch, it will not blow away.
This rubber material from American Floor Mats can also drain water and moisture better than the above KIDSWISE loose-fill item, so the playground will always stay clean and dry.
In addition, it does not attract harmful insects like carpenter ants, termites, or bugs, so it’s safe for kids, adults, pets, and animals.
This mulch is also the only item on this top list that meets IPEMA and ASTM – two trustworthy certifications on playground safety.
How To Choose The Best Mulch For Playground?
In total, there are five kinds of popular mulches.
Do note that this list is not exhaustive. You may find other kinds on the market if you go out and look for them. These five are merely the ones that are most often used.
Out of all of the materials that you can possibly get to soften up the ground of a play area, rubber is the most impact-absorbent.
You only have to scatter a 6-inch thick layer of rubber mulch and it can protect children from falls of up to 10 feet. As a result, it is the most recommended type of mulch for playgrounds.
A notable characteristic of rubber mulch is that it is made up of tiny rubber shreddings. They basically have a similar quality to wood shaving. As children move around, fall, or play on them, they could be displaced. You will have to monitor the mulch’s distribution carefully to ensure that there are enough in critical areas like near the swing sets and the slides.
Rubber mulch is extremely durable. It can withstand impact and weather well, which is why you’ll rarely have to do maintenance. You probably won’t ever have to replace them at all!
The downside, though, is that rubber mulch is far more expensive than other types initially. However, in the long term, because you’ll rarely have to maintain or replace it, the savings will add up.
Depending on the general aesthetic of the playground, you can pick the rubber mulch’s color accordingly. You can easily buy mulches in an earth tone, grass tone, or other colors.
If you need something that’s cheap (at least initially) and easy to install, look to sand. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that unlike rubber mulch, the long-term cost will add up if you were to use sand.
Sand requires a lot of maintenance as they get dirty quickly, especially when it’s subjected to weather like rains, hails, or snow. It will also become filled with wastes, harmful insects, and other materials and objects over time.
Because of this, after a year, it’s recommended that you change out the sand for a fresh layer. You may even have to do so even before the year’s over if the children play on it often.
In terms of shock absorption, sand doesn’t perform very well.
A 9-inch layer of sand will only protect from falls of up to 4 feet. Additionally, sand is difficult for disabled people to navigate on and doesn’t meet the government’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards.
On the bright side, sand can look awesome when it’s clean. The natural look can fit into playgrounds of any aesthetic and style.
Woodchips (may also be called “wood mulch” or sometimes “Engineered Wood Fiber – EWF”) are an attractive option for a lot of people. After all, it’s quite safe, beautiful, cheap, and easy to install.
Shock absorption ability, while it’s not on par with rubber mulch, is a lot better than sand and is considered “decent”. A nine-inch layer of wood mulch can soften a fall from 7 feet. In addition to protecting from falls, wood mulch also protects from slips as it absorbs moisture very well.
While it is a good shock absorber, wood mulch could potentially be a safety hazard.
Over time, wood mulch can be eaten up by mold and infiltrated by harmful insects. They could cause allergies or itchy bites if they’re not dealt with properly.
You’ll also have to watch out for dangerous objects or materials being hidden inside of the wood mulch. Broken glass, for example, can cause injuries if they’re not found and cleaned up in time.
Last but not least, similar to rubber mulch, wood mulch has a tendency to displace. Watch the distribution of the mulch carefully and ensure that there’s enough to pad falls in important areas (swing sets, slides, and so on).
Cost-wise, wood mulch is very cheap up front. The maintenance and the annual replacement, though, can drive up the long-term costs significantly.
Due to its natural look, it can fit the theme of any playground.
Pea gravel is made from small stones the size of a pea (around ⅜-inch). It doesn’t soften and doesn’t absorb impact very well, but it does provide support. A 9-inch layer of pea gravel can offer protection from falls of up to 5 feet.
If you have toddlers around, pay close attention to them as the small stones are potential choking hazards. Pea gravel is also not ADA standard-compliant, so it’s not easy for disabled people to use.
Like sand and woodchips, pea gravel is loose-fill and can be displaced over time. Observing the distribution of the gravel and raking them back into place every day is important.
Pea gravel is relatively cheap and easy to install, though maintenance costs can be quite high over time. Although pea gravel is weather-resistant, doesn’t develop mold, and insects don’t really like to burrow into them, the stones can shatter into smaller pieces over time. The smaller shards can be dangerous if they’re fallen on. When that happens, you have to replace it.
The look of the stones is natural and can fit perfectly with any playground design style. There’s no need to worry about the aesthetic.
Pour N’ Play
Pour N’ Play is the brand name for a type of poured rubber mats. These mats are good for use in playgrounds if the type you bought meets the safety standards of the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials).
When properly installed, rubber mats are like a single, continuous sheet of plastic. This is an advantage over mulch since no harmful object and material can fall between the sheets.
They’d be especially helpful if you’re building a playground for toddlers, as the mulch of any type can be ingested and turned into choking and ingestion hazards.
Needless to say, these mats are quite expensive. Much more expensive than rubber mulch, sand, wood mulch, or pea gravel. In return, maintenance costs are low. They resist weather well and can last for years without much maintenance.
Rubber mats can be found and purchased in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs. Though they don’t look as good as natural mulch, they can offer a fun, entertaining look to the space.
It’s highly recommended that you purchase rubber mats in lighter colors. Dark mats absorb a lot of heat and can become very hot.
1. How deep of rubber mulch should you put for the playground?
For residential playgrounds, a 4 to 5-inch layer of rubber mulch will do the trick. At these depths, the mulch layer will be able to provide fall protection between 10 to 12 feet.
In commercial playgrounds, people often lay between 5 to 6 inches of rubber mulch. It will provide between 12 to 16 feet of fall protection.
2. Is there a difference between mulch and playground mulch?
In short, yes. Regular mulch is made from organic matters like tree barks. Meanwhile, playground mulch (let’s assume it is the woodchips type) is made from fresh wood shavings collected from sawmills. The quality between the two is very different.
3. Does playground mulch attract bugs?
Depending on the type of mulch. Woodchips and sand are very attractive to mulch. You have to clean them regularly to avoid bug bites. Other kinds like rubber, pea gravel, and rubber mats are generally bug-resistant.
4. Do mosquitoes breed in mulch?
Wet mulch can attract mosquitoes. If they’re wet enough, mosquitoes can breed at the bottom of the mulch layer. This is especially the case for wood mulch. Another reason to clean up the mulch layer regularly.
5. Are cedar chips good for playgrounds?
Cedar mulch is a pretty good kind of mulch. Since it contains the tree’s natural oil, it can repel insects and other pests well. Cedar mulch also decomposes more slowly than regular kinds of wood mulch, which will reduce long-term costs.
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Rubber mulch, like Playsafer Rubber Mulch Nuggets, can last up to 12 years and requires little maintenance, making it the best mulch for playground or gardening purposes. However, rubber mulch is pretty expensive, especially if you install it in a large area. If you have a limited budget, you can switch to free wood chips for playground surfaces.
Likewise, you can choose some of the best types of wood to use as playground mulch, such as cedar or cypress. These wood types can act as natural insect repellents to prevent the attacks of termites and pests.
The pitfalls of this natural mulch material are that it requires replacement every 1 to 3 years. Its color quickly fades over time. Plus, weed and mold can grow on it.